All Shook Up

Sep 6 2018 | By More

★★★☆☆      Energetic

Church Hill Theatre: Wed 5–Sat 8 Sept 2018
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is a spirited tunefulness to LYAMC’s All Shook Up that makes it cheerfully compelling despite occasional raggedness.

Joe Di Pietro’s 2004 musical – possibly better known in the UK as Love Me Tender – is the very definition of the ‘jukebox musical’, being built around nearly 30 numbers made famous by Elvis Presley.

Joe Mooney as Chad. Pic Ric Brannan Photography LYAMC All Shook Up Church Hill Theatre September 2018

Joe Mooney as Chad. Pic Ric Brannan Photography

Presley’s career featured some wonderful songs, some ordinary ones he made memorable by sheer force of personality, and some that even he could not redeem. It is fair to say that all three types are featured here. The plot – such as it is – is entirely constructed of scraps of other stories designed to get from one song to the next, until it inexplicably and inadvisably turns into Twelfth Night just before the interval.

While this is emphatically not a biography, the central character – roustabout and jukebox whisperer Chad – does have some elements of Elvis, crossed with Marlon Brando in The Wild One.

Countless performers have tried and failed to emulate the King’s smouldering, hip-swivelling, lip-curling menace, and it is a thankless task for any young performer. So it is hardly surprising that Joe Mooney comes across more as a polite young man than any kind of moral danger. However, he does have a charming air about him that makes him a constantly interesting stage presence.

He is not the only singer who sometimes struggles with the keys of the songs, with some of the bottom notes disappearing, a situation made worse by the musical backing. This is not the first show recently at the Church Hill where the band – who are otherwise tightly controlled by MD James McCutcheon – have been too loud for comfort.

volume contest

This means that some of the songs become a volume contest between musicians and singers – one which, despite being miked up, the singers are not going to win. Many of the songs, shorn of their rock and roll power, are not entirely at home. Those that work the best in a musical theatre context – Can’t Help Falling In Love and If I Can Dream – suffer the most, with maximum power apparently being reached halfway through but continuing to build thereafter, drowning out any subtlety or emotion. Problems with switching the mics towards the end also lead to some performers’ featured lines being lost entirely.

Clare Wootton as Natalie. Pic Ric Brannan Photography LYAMC All Shook Up Church Hill Theatre September 2018

Clare Wootton as Natalie. Pic: Ric Brannan Photography

Despite this, the singers acquit themselves very well on the whole. Clare Wootton, who plays Natalie, the mechanic who sets her cap at Chad, has an inherently dramatic vocal style as well as an obvious talent for physical comedy. Ellie De Marco gives honky-tonk owner Sylvia a wounded gravitas and invests her solos with genuine emotion.

De Marco manages to convince as an older character, something that is also true of Nicolas Hann-Rengifo as Natalie’s father Jim. Hann-Rengifo also has a clear aptitude for comedy. This is shared by Robin McGillivray, as museum curator Sandra, who combines it with a mature and poised stage presence.

engaging performance

Emma Clarkson and Matthew Steel give a pair of forbidden lovers a definite spark, while loveable dweeb Dennis is lifted from a stereotype by Bobby Duncan’s engaging performance. Another character we have all seen too often before is strait-laced mayor Matilda, but she is similarly given considerable reality by Emily Cooper, while her long-suffering sidekick Earl’s one moment to shine is seized eagerly by Cameron Armstrong.

The huge chorus are well drilled and Fiona Jackson’s choreography makes good use of the packed stage.

The story – which has all of the dramatic integrity and grit of Elvis’s later movies – could be insufferable if it is not attacked with pace and panache, and luckily director Fraser Jamieson does exactly that. The projections showing the setting of each scene may be clumsily over-literal, but they – together with some speedy furniture moving – mean that the whole thing moves along at a fair old lick.

Which, together with the quality of the singing, makes up for some of the sonic excesses and means this is an enjoyably cheesy feelgood romp.

Running time 2 hours 30 minutes including one interval
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Wednesday 5– Saturday 8 September2018
Daily at 7.30 pm; Sat matinee 2.30 pm
LYAMC Facebook: @lyamc.

The Cast of All Shook Up. Pic: Ric Brannan Photography LYAMC All Shook Up Church Hill Theatre September 2018

The Cast of All Shook Up. Pic: Ric Brannan Photography


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  1. Murray Smith says:

    Saw the show on Saturday and three stars is extremely harsh. Extremely talented group of kids! *****